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Mandisa, off ‘Idol,’ says fans’ prayers will have ‘full force’

HOLLYWOOD (BP)–“Your support has meant the world to me,” Mandisa Hundley told her fans on “American Idol” April 5.

“And the prayers that have been lifted up for me, I know, will continue to have full force for me,” Mandisa continued, moments after being told she had received the lowest number of votes among the nine remaining competitors following a country music-themed telecast April 4.

“So I thank you and I bless you in the name of Jesus,” the unabashed Christian said.

American Idol host Ryan Seacrest told Hundley, who used just the name “Mandisa” in the nationally televised competition, “You have been such a great spirit on the show, Mandisa…. We have loved having you with us.”

On the video tribute to each week’s contestant receiving the lowest vote total, Mandisa was shown stating that “I’ve been watching the show since the very beginning and, so, the fact that I’m on it is a dream come true…. There’s really no turning back now. This sets me for what I’m going to do forever.”

Mandisa’s exit from the show -– called a “Shocking night on ‘American Idol’” on MSNBC’s website -– actually will boost her career, one Nashville Christian radio personality, Stace Whitmire on WAY-FM, predicted April 6.

Because Mandisa was among the 12 finalists, she will be part of this year’s American Idol concert tour, which will give her continued national exposure, Whitmire said.

But, by not winning the contest, Mandisa will be free from the “pop star” obligations that the winner would need to embrace, Whitmire said, and she will be free to make a recording of her own choosing.

One of the show’s judges, Simon Cowell, known for his harsh comments to the performers, had figured prominently in Mandisa’s rise on the show.

“When you’re on it, I don’t think there’s a better female singer in this competition,” the English record industry exec told Mandisa after one of her performances.

Early on, Mandisa put her faith into action when Cowell flippantly remarked about her weight.

“Do we have a bigger stage this year?” he asked on camera after she walked away.

Mandisa responded to Cowell’s comment the next time she appeared in front of the judges.

“What I want to say to you is that, yes, you hurt me and I cried and it was painful, it really was,” she told Cowell on national TV. “But I want you to know that I’ve forgiven you and that you don’t need someone to apologize in order to forgive somebody. I figure that if Jesus could die so that all of my wrongs could be forgiven, I can certainly extend that same grace to you.”

Cowell, getting up to hug her, said, “Mandisa, I’m humbled, really. I’m just so appalling, aren’t I?”

On the March 28 broadcast, Mandisa chose a contemporary Christian song, “Shackles (Praise You),” that had been recorded by the duo Mary Mary.

Cowell called Mandisa’s performance “a bit indulgent. I just didn’t get that. Not for me.”

Fellow Idol judge Randy Jackson reacted, “No question that you can definitely sing. You’re one of the best singers in this. But for me, the song choices, I don’t get it. I don’t know.”

The third Idol judge, Paula Abdul, said, “All I know is that there’s a new religion and 40 million people have joined the Church of Mandisa. You are the most brilliant singer.” But, Abdul added, “I’d like to see you color it up with vulnerability next week.”

Prior to her appearances on American Idol, thousands of women throughout the country were introduced to the 29-year-old’s powerful voice when, several years ago, she joined the worship team for Bible teacher Beth Moore’s Living Proof Live events.

Mandisa became involved in the Living Proof Live events through contacts she developed while working at LifeWay Christian Resources in Nashville, Tenn. She came to LifeWay in the fall of 2000 as a telephone sales representative and later worked for a short time in LifeWay’s women’s enrichment events area.

“LifeWay is proud of its former employee and member of the praise choir for Beth Moore’s Living Proof Live events,” the Southern Baptist entity’s website states. “Employees are thrilled to support her throughout the competition and as she embraces opportunities to share her unwavering faith in Christ. With her talents and life firmly committed to the Lord, LifeWay is confident of her future success … with or without the American Idol title.”